jhmitchell

The Jade Writer Girl

 

Dear reader,

Here it is, finally, another instalment of the Freddie Monologues. Hoping to catch up on my Writerly Aspirations by the end of December. Only six more to go, woohoo!

Sincerely,

The Jade Writer Girl.

The Freddie Monologues

Run

The cry of cicadas is both a warning and a memory. Every year they bring with them the nostalgia of Christmas. Emerging on the curtails of a dry heavy heat to become a daily backdrop of ordinary outdoor life.

They form a symphony. A constant rhythm to match to and as they weave their chirruping lullaby I beat a steady drumbeat with the pounding of my feet.

The warm bitumen is hard and unrelenting, and I make sure to stick to the outer edge of the path, delegating my companion to the soft, cool, narrow strip of grass beside me.

He lopes with ease, four feet instead two, a tongue lolling and unapologetically silent. He senses me watching and shoots me a wide-eyed smile.

Together we run.

We run from our problems. Four legged and two.

We run from people. Aggressive and neglectful.

We run from the noise. The constant hum of voices that neither of us can contribute to. Communication isn’t our strong suit, which makes us well paired.

That’s not to say we cannot talk.

His long snout lifts twice, scenting the air, before he shifts his head slightly in one direction. Without pause, without breath, without hesitation, I follow his nose. The soft, light handle of the lead may be curled around my wrist, but for the most part, he determines the direction we take.

I tilt my body slightly to the left as we jog around the corner. We’ve only been gone fifteen minutes, and yet he leads me with ease down several streets, somehow knowing the way back, telling me, in his own way, that’s he’s had enough. At least for today.

Besides, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Panting, our footsteps echo up the pathway as we near the small building he—for now—calls home.

Sweat clings to my back, breaking out over my forehead and neck as we slow to a more reasonable pace. My heart hammers, and I ease my breathing to slow it down.

My companion slows to a jaunty trot, pleased but not puffed. I shake my head and head up the path toward the back of the building.

As we enter into cool, relieving air conditioning, a cacophony of voices greet us. Michael glances up from his computer at the back desk and gives me a slight nod.

‘All done for the day, then?’ he says, pushing himself up off his chair to let me through the buzzer door. ‘You know, you don’t have to run them all every afternoon. It’s not like we pay you.’

I shrug, unclip the lead from a thin chain collar and wind it around my fist. Michael watches me, his face questioning. He opens his mouth, reconsiders, and shakes his head.

‘You’re choice I suppose,’ he mutters and returns to his seat.

He doesn’t attempt to help me take the dog back in and I’m glad.

Obediently, I am followed back into the long row of dog pens. They are only half full, but half is still too many. Too many for the two volunteers who run the shelter to handle.

I open one of the doors and gesture inside. The dog pads through without resistance and flops gracelessly to the ground.

As I’m filling his water the back door slams and I hear Michael curse followed by a loud, aggressive snarl.

Barking erupts a moment later.

Before the dogs in the hallway can loose their cool, I close the door to the pen and head on out back, slipping through the buzzer door as quietly as I can manage. No need to set them all off after I’d just finished wearing them all out.

Michael and Susan are wrestling with a blur.

That’s all it is at first because Michael and Susan are too busy grappling over it for me to see.

Despite that, I see the accident before it happens. Susan looses her hold on the lead, stumbles, and slips. Michael curses, grabbing at the dog that is too quick. Without thinking I step in to intervene.

I snatch the slack lead from Susan’s hand with one hand, while reaching into my pocket with the other.

Before the dog can launch itself at Susan’s face, I jam my closed fist in front of it’s nose. It goes still and I get a decent look at it.

Steel blue, white socks, torn ear and decently scarred from the looks of it’s frantically sniffing snout.

I raise my fist up and, like always, the dog’s nose follows, takes two steps backwards before settling back on thick, muscled haunches. I grin and open my palm flat, letting the dog gobble up the dried kangaroo meat. A sticky trail of slobber replaces the treat on my palm. I snort and wipe my hand on my shorts.

‘Thanks, Freddie,’ Susan gasps, struggling to her feet. ‘I haven’t been able to get her that still since I picked her up.’

‘Bloody pitbulls,’ Michael scowls. ‘You should’ve just told them we can’t take her. We’re full as it is and anyway, we don’t take the dangerous breeds.’

A low growl starts up and I shoot Michael a swift glare as I crouch down in front of the girl. I reach into my pocket and produce more kangaroo meat and she goes still again. Her ears perk, her head tilts, and she snuffles at my fist, giving my fingers a light nibble as she tries to access the source of that sweet, sweet scent.

The lead is standard capture. A loop that can be tightened once around a stray’s neck and right now it’s far too tight. As she scoffs another strip of meat, I work my fingers under the collar and loosen it off a bit. She’s too distracted to pay me much mind, and I use that opportunity to run my hand down across her back.

It’s clear she’s been in a few scraps and tousles, but I’d seen worse on guard dogs at truck yards. Not a fighter, then. At the very least she hadn’t been bred for it, anyway.

Susan and Michael are already arguing, and as their voices raise and the prospects of treats diminish, the girl’s ears go flat. Her eyes are wide and she looks up at the two humans with tense muscles around her face. Her hackles go up, and a low whine forms in her throat.

Whoever said dogs can’t talk is an idiot.

I leave her sitting where she is, dropping another two treats in front of her paws as I go searching for the spare collars.

Deep brown eyes glance nervously at my face as I crouch back down in front of her and let her sniff the collar. She’s a mix-breed, one of the mid-sized bullies, but from the looks of her leg muscles that’s not going to matter much.

I fix the collar around her neck and pull the running lead from my other pocket.

Michael and Susan are still too busy arguing to notice. The girl’s nose is good, and she’s sniffing at my pockets, her ears still pinned back but her eyes focused on the prize as we walk to the back door. I pause, wondering if I should get their attention.

My eye catches sight of Susan’s bag and I grin.

Outside the ground thuds beneath my feet as I ease into a steady jog. The afternoon is cooling, but still warm enough to make me sweat within moments. As we run, the tension and unease rolls off the dog, and I feel my own, worn out legs settle into a steady, reliable rhythm.

This is easy. This is simple. This is instinct.

We take the left turn, heading out onto the main street and as she relaxes into the run her beauty shines through. Even with the bright yellow sash I’ve tied around her middle sprayed with a logo and large, black letters.

Shelter dog, needs adopting.

I’m in a stasis of crisis. 

I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t write. I can barely even think. Wait, no, that’s a lie. I can think. But none of it really makes much sense.

You see…I am infected with an alien.

Okay, okay, so I know that technically the minuscule thing currently growing legs and arms and tiny little organs isn’t actually an alien but that hasn’t much stopped me from feeling a bit like Sigourney Weaver’s crew mates aboard the Nostromo. 

With every turn of the stomach, every feeling of bottoming out, every stomach free-falling lurch as I attempt—multiple times a day—to keep my food where it belongs…I feel as though this tiny little life-form is going to burst forth from within me. Perhaps not quite from my chest, but near enough for it to be relatable.

Hubby, in his delightfully sympathetic way, keeps telling me to “suck it up”. “It was your choice,” he reminds me smugly as I complain yet again at the loss of any functionality in my life, while he enjoys a JD and coke and a full dinner.

Bastard.

One particularly miserable afternoon, after which I’d spent two days unable to keep a single dry cracker or water safely in my turbulent tummy, I honestly thought I was going to eject the little alien straight into the toilet bowl. Like a pilot force ejecting from a crash landing. Good bye food, hello emergency room. Ten hours of waiting and by the time I crawled into bed, miserable and exhausted, I still had one more up-chuck in me before I managed some sleep.

My body has become a treacherous landscape of nope. Within mere weeks the alien has taken command and turned all my senses traitor. My memories of food are full of pot holes and landslides and precarious roads that lead to a rather strong gag reflex unlike anything I’ve so far experienced.

Despite that one week of terror in which we were assured that miscarriage is a perfectly natural part of getting pregnant and “I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do this early on, but here’s a very large letter to the emergency department just in case”, the whole experience has thus far made me wonder why anyone does this at all? 

Melodramatic? Maybe.

People keep asking me if I’m excited. So far the only flutter of excitement has come on the two instances of seeing the little fruit sized alien on a grainy grey screen; and that one day when I opened a surprise gift of halloween onesies for babies (yet another unsuspecting soul unable to escape my grasp to dress up in absurd little costumes).

Hubby, after I rebelliously ordered a chocolate milkshake after weeks of avoiding dairy, has a few times questioned my eating habits. “Should you really be eating that?”

Probably not. There’s a lot of probably nots. Somedays are good. Some days are great. Some days I smell the food and it’s absolutely delicious and then the taste hits my tongue and the food wiggles down and settles just upon this tiny growing bump and suddenly…suddenly I feel as though I’m on a boat and in very great need of a bush.

Blegh.

I tell hubby to fuck off. Then I sulk and demand a cuddle, which he obligingly (smugly) gives. In all fairness, he’s been pretty tolerant of the tired, moody, bitchy grouch that’s replaced his wife.

Where’s the glow? Where’s the soft skin and the silky hair and the excitement and happiness and…oh alright, where’s the sex? Women with perfect skin, perfect hair, smooth moods and lustrous libidos. They’re a myth, I tell you! A hoax. I defy anyone to find me one of these creatures and bring her to me immediately and tell me what am I doing wrong?

I feel disassociated. 

Before all this happened, my cousin used to gloat over my inability to enjoy 3D ultrasound pictures and under one-year-old photos of potato babies. “It’ll be different when it’s you,” she’d say knowingly, smiling all smug-like as if she had any idea more than me what it would be like to be pregnant.

I’m sorry, but babies just don’t look like anything, until they become more human. Which, for your information, isn’t until they’ve been out and about and kicking for at least couple of months.

Always, always people tell me I’ll feel differently about my own baby.

Riiiiiight.

The first time I saw one of those creepy, cloudy, orange, alien-like 3D images of my own gut I thought I was going to throw up. It might’ve been the seasickness. Or the tonne of water I’d been forced to consume and squash into my rather incompetent bladder; but I’m pretty sure it was the sheer panic at seeing that thing wriggling about inside me.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help the bubble of “oh my god” that expands in my chest at the thought of it. I can’t control that tight bit of fear that makes my vision creep black and makes me hope to pass out. It’s instinct. It’s panic. It’s…too much imagination and too many horror movies. It’s just who I am.

Is that so wrong?

I’ve read about depression for young mother’s. Disassociation from your own child. The inability to bond. But…I don’t think that’s what my problem is.

At least…I hope it’s not. From my limited experience with my own dogs, I know I have no problem bonding to young, vulnerable creatures. A baby isn’t any different, right?

Occasionally, when we talk about things like names, I get a tiny flutter of something deep inside, and I think “there it is!”. So maybe I am okay with this. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe it is going to be normal.

But then I shift, the flutter passes and I wonder if maybe it was just indigestion. 

Mostly I’m just not thinking about it.

Will I make a good mother? 

Did we make the right decision?

Maybe I should’ve just been a dog person? 

What if we don’t finish the renovations in time?

Am I allowed to sleep on my stomach? 

God, I hate sleeping on my stomach but damn if it’s not the only way I can avoid the urge to puke, and anyway, it’s not like I’m gonna squash the seasick little pirate alien am I?

Am I?

What if I do something wrong? What if I lift something too heavy? What if I eat the wrong food? What if I suck at being a mother? What if I neglect the dogs? What if I spend too much time with the dogs and Junior hates me and what if, what if, whatifwhatifwhatif?

Ugh.

Exhausting. Time for another ice-block.

I’m sure it’ll become real. I’m sure my little alien will grow a little larger, start pushing at the boundaries of my body—manipulating me into a shape more suitable to itself—and then, with the evidence straining away at me, I’ll start to come to terms with this decision I so ached for before it became a reality.

Despite all this, if I could go back in time and change it, I wouldn’t.

So I’ve been a little seasick. I’ll get over it. But until I do, I just wish that people would stop expecting me to be anything but seasick. So I’m not excited, who cares? I will be. I know I will be. Because that’s also who I am. I’m not a “get excited months before hand” kind of gal.

I’m a full steam ahead, all engines a go, full-throttle, throw into the whirling dervish kind of excited and too be honest, that much excitement all the time would just be exhausting. For me, and everybody else. And I’m already exhausted enough, thanks very much. I’d much rather my usual approach of saving it all up and exploding it all out at once in a giddy, stupid, messy rush. I like it that way.

It’s me.

So, until then, it’d be really great if me and my alien can just get a little less expectation and a little more “it’s okay to be a giant, moody, seasick slob.Yes it does look like an alien. Here, have another ice-block.”

Aliens like ice-blocks, or at least, my alien does.

Dear reader,

I’ve decided to focus on some background stories to help character build an MC of mine. I’m going to call them the Freddie Monologues. He’s an interesting character but I don’t yet think I’ve reached a depth with him that I want to achieve.

I hope you enjoy what I come up with, and follow along with Freddie’s story.

Sincerley,

The Jade Writer Girl.

Talk to Me:

Seventeen years old and here I am, sitting at a small, corner coffee table, glaring at the menu and praying that the waitress waiting to take my order doesn’t notice the unshed tears I’m fruitlessly trying to blink into submission.

I am not going to cry. I’m not. I’m seventeen for Gods sake. Not five. Not lost and alone without any means of communicating. No. This place is familiar. This place is safe. This menu I know like the back of my hand. Have read it a thousand times. Can recite in my sleep for crying out loud.

So why can’t I just get it out?

‘Same as usual?’ the waitress asks, clearly getting annoyed.

I don’t answer. Don’t dip my head or shake it or give any indication whatsoever that I’ve heard her. Instead I concentrate on the words.

One breakfast burger, no onion, black coffee.

Simple. Easy.

Deep breath. Steady. Calm. I can do this. I can. Everyone else in this bloody cafe can do it. They’re all perfectly capable of giving their damn order without crying like a baby.

I berate myself. Are you a man or aren’t you?

I shake my head. Open my mouth and…

Point.

God I hate myself.

The menu shakes in my hands. The words distort. The white film goes blurry. I blink rapidly and pretend to cough into my elbow.

The waitress sighs. She looks irritated. No guesses why. She’s been waiting for me to say something for the last five minutes.

Yeah, well. I’ve been waiting for me to say something for the last seventeen years. She can get in line.

‘Same as usual,’ she mutters, scrawling down my order. ‘You want a coffee with that?’

Shoulders sagging, defeated, I nod. I prop an elbow on the table and watch as she walks away. When I first started coming here, perching nervously on the edge of last table in her section, she’d seemed bemused by me, almost interested.

Who wouldn’t?

I didn’t exactly fit in with the usual clientele of the Two Professors. My boots were far from pristine—faded red and dirt stained, my jeans sun bleached and ragged, and my shirt was not what one called “restaurant quality”.

No one I knew would ever step foot in here and that was exactly the reason I had chosen it.

Since that first day, when I’d sat sweating and shaking, declining to order for thirty minutes before bolting out of the cafe without a single bite to eat, the waitress had slowly lost interest in me.

Now I was just one of those odd, annoying customers she couldn’t seem to shake. Her apprehension and irritation with me was written all over her face, every time I stepped foot in the door.

She comes back, dumps my over-priced, too-bitter coffee on the table and says, ‘food won’t be long. I know how you don’t like to wait.’

I glance up at her but she’s already sauntering off, hips sashaying in a rather pleasing way that I might appreciate more if I didn’t feel like throwing up.

With another long-suffering sigh I stir my coffee and stare out the window. I don’t blame her for her attitude. After all, if I was her, wouldn’t I be frustrated by me? The strange boy who comes in for thirty minutes every Saturday, orders the same thing without ever speaking, and disappears before the change is barely in the register.

There are no sympathetic glances here. No understanding nods as they wait patiently for me to communicate. No side-long expressions of pity as someone else comes to my rescue.

This is what it’s like to be out on my own. To experience the world without help, without hinderance, and without the pre-determined judgement that comes from what people see. Or rather, what they don’t see.

I couldn’t complain when the waitress ended up despising me for it, could I? After all, wasn’t that why I came here?

When she brings over my plate I’m determined to give it one more go. I want to say thank you. To force the words out from my uncooperative throat and have someone other than me hear them. I want to tell her I’m sorry for being such a pain. That I don’t mean it. That I’m trying.

I catch her arm before she can disappear and she looks down at me, blue eyes sharp and bright and a little nervous. I let go, but she doesn’t leave. She cocks an eyebrow and stares at me expectantly.

My throat works. I open my mouth. I close it. I frown in frustration and wish to God that I could scream. That I could make some damn noise.

Her expression shifts back into that aloof irritation and all at once my confidence crumbles.

Without thinking, my hands make the words my throat can’t seem to manage on its own.

Thank you.

And there it is. Her face clears. Those eyes, sharp and observant and bluer than the sky, become soft. Her pretty pink lips relax out of the thin line they’ve been in ever since that first day. She offers me a small, uncertain smile as understanding washes over her in a sudden wave.

‘I…sorry,’ she stammers and Disappointment curls in my gut. This isn’t what I wanted. ‘I don’t know what that means. Hang on. I think…I think my boss knows sign language. Just…just wait here, okay?’

I blink at her but she’s already rushing away. I sigh. Glance down at my burger and wrinkle my nose. Covered in onions.

Before she can come back I’m out the door, a twenty dollar note left next to my uneaten burger and half a cup of coffee.

I stop around the corner, just able to make her out as she returns to my table, manager in tow, and sees my empty seat and the bill on the table. She picks up the note, stares around, peers out the window. Her boss says something. She talks back animatedly, waving her hands about and gesturing to her ears.

I shake my head, scowling and annoyed and still blinking back those damn tears. I scrub my hands over my face, run them through my hair, decide that maybe I need a haircut.

There’s a barber down the street who’s seen me regularly enough to know my usual cut. I head that way, stuffing my hands in pockets and trying not to brood.

I don’t go back to the cafe.

Changing a blown tire on a burning black bitumen road in abandoned outback town was not high on Tim’s list of “shit I want to get done today”.

Okay, so he might have been speeding. But it wasn’t as if he was expecting anyone else to come along and run straight out in front his car. End of the world and all that. These people were supposed to be dead.

Still, as he swiped sweat from his face and wrenched the last nut into place, he supposed he had to go find the little twerp.

Rules being rules, he couldn’t exactly leave her alone out in the middle of whoop whoop.

He sat back and tried to wipe some of the grease layering his hands onto his shorts. He glanced around, dark eyes flickering amongst the scant few buildings between sunburnt trees and brown grass.

A few stray kangaroos were poking their heads out from behind trees and overgrown lawn bushes, curious now that the noise had died down.

Two weeks ago, in another similarly abandoned town, Tim had almost copped it from a big Red when he’d accidentally stepped into it’s territory looking for blankets. All six foot and muscle, Tim had decided that particular house was worth a miss and high tailed it out of there.

He scrunched his nose and did another scan for the girl, hoping she was crouched behind a bin or a rusting car rather than inside one of the buildings where God knows what lurked.

He shuddered. From kangaroos to snakes to (just once in a place that had been recently flooded) a crocodile, there was no telling what you’d find in places these days.

Aside from all the bodies, of course. But that was to be expected.

Tim sighed and pushed himself to his feet. Time to go and find the brat.

He picked one of two open store fronts and stomped across the baking street towards the shattered display.

Tim stepped through the broken glass door frame, glancing up to see a small life-less bell gathering dust. Reaching up one grease stained hand, he gave the bell a small tap, announcing his presence to the kid with a jangle.

He smirked, revelling in a sound that had once been so normal; yet now was out of place in this new world he lived. Bittersweet melancholy attempted to coil it’s way through his abdomen but Tim brushed it off with a shrug.

It was too hot melancholy.

‘God, I’d kill for an ice-cream,’ he muttered as his eyes adjusted to the dark.

From the back corner of overturned tables and piled up cushions—a rudimentary fort at best—came a small, curious voice.

‘You have ice-cream?’

Tim paused, smirked and rolled his eyes. Didn’t kids know you don’t trust strangers with candy?

‘Nope,’ he said, dragging a chair upright and slouching down. ‘Do you?’

A scraggly blonde head poked up out of the fort.

‘Does it look like I have ice-cream?’ she said.

Tim raised his eyebrows. Smart mouth. He could respect that. After all, she was alive wasn’t she?

Even disregarding the plague (surviving that was more luck than anything), she’d managed to go it alone for…how long had it been? Six months at least.

‘Doesn’t look like you got shit,’ Tim said, deciding to fight sarcasm with sarcasm.

It was what he was good at, anyway.

‘So,’ he said, when she didn’t reply. ‘Do you regularly run out in front speeding cars? Good way to get yourself killed.’

‘There ain’t no cars round here. They’re all gone.’

‘Mine isn’t.’

‘It will be,’ she said. ‘Everyone goes eventually.’

Tim tilted his head, regarding the girl who’d yet to reveal more than half her face from the confines of the fort.

‘You mean they die?’

She nodded.

Tim shrugged. ‘I’m not gonna die.’

‘Yes you are. We both will.’

Tim crossed his arms and leaned back. ‘How long you been here?’

‘Forever. I grew up here.’

’No, I mean, how long you been alone?’

She was quiet a moment. ‘Long time. Days and days.’

‘Right, well, you ain’t dead yet. So that probably means you ain’t gonna die. At least, not from the plague.’

‘Plague?’

‘Yeah, that’s what killed everyone.’

She blinked at him. ‘I have the plague.’

‘Somehow I doubt that.’

‘I do,’ she said. ‘But if you don’t, you should go. You don’t want to die here.’

Tim leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and staring at her hard.

‘Look, kid. If you had the plague, you’d be long dead by now.’

‘I’m bleeding. I’m gonna die. You better get out of here.’

With that, she ducked back down into her pathetic little fort and out of view. Tim gaped, nonplussed. What the hell?

He supposed, she had been alone. Being a little weird wasn’t totally uncalled for. But gees, talk about depressing.

Tim rolled his eyes and stood up.

‘Don’t come no closer,’ she called, her voice small and beginning to crack.

Tim made a face. ‘You said you were bleeding. You probably just cut yourself. I can help.’

‘I didn’t. I’m dying. Go away. You’ll get sick too. Just like everyone else.’

‘I will not,’ Tim snapped. ‘I can’t get sick. I’m…immune.’

A long pause. ‘What’s that?’

‘Means I can’t get sick. Now, let me see where you’re bleeding.’

Tim leaned over the fort and pulled back the moth-eaten rug that covered the top. The girl squawked and ducked her head, covering her face with her hands and burying herself in a pillow.

‘Can’t!’

Tim narrowed his eyes. ‘I don’t see any blood,’ he said and reached in to lift the matted tangle of mousy blonde hair.

No blood by her ears or mouth, and he already knew her eyes were fine. No tell-tale black veins. In the clear then. Whatever reason she thought she was dying, it wasn’t the plague.

‘Alright, where’d you cut yourself? Come on I don’t have all day.’

‘I didn’t!’ she cried, her voice muffled and hollow pressed into the pillow. ‘Just leave me. I’m dying.’

‘For the love of…’ Tim muttered.

He leaned down again, grabbed her by the arm and hauled her—she was surprisingly heavy for such a scrawny kid—up onto her feet. She squawked again. Like the cockatoos in the morning fighting over some meal or other.

With a fierce glare, she kicked out at him and with that motion, seeing her fully for the first time, Tim discovered the problem.

‘Ah shit,’ he muttered and dropped her.

She landed on her feet, lost her balance and fell on her arse. An arse that was covered in a pair of old, dirty, loose blue jeans. Blue jeans that had a very, distinct, unavoidably obvious patch of red.

Tim sighed. He looked up at the ceiling. He waited for the earth to open up and swallow him whole.

Nothing happened. Instead, the girl, her anger draining away into nothing, burst into tears.

Damn.

‘You’re not dying,’ he said flatly, still looking up at the ceiling. ‘You’re just…a girl.’

‘I’m bleeding!’ she sobbed.

‘Yep,’ said Tim. ‘I see that.’

‘So I’m dying, just go away already before you catch it too.’

Tim rolled his eyes and looked back down at her. ‘I can’t catch…that. I’m a boy. It doesn’t work that way. Look, how old are you? Didn’t anyone ever tell you about…that.’

‘About…what?’ she sniffled, swiping at her eyes with grubby hands.

‘About…well…women’s things. You know. That. Bleeding…and stuff. Ugh, this sucks. Look, you’re a girl, right? And…well, when girls hit, well, about your age I guess, they start to…uh, become a women?’

She sniffled again. ‘Why are you asking me? I don’t know!’

Tim groaned. ‘I’m not asking, I just…I don’t know how to explain. This isn’t exactly my area of expertise you know. I generally avoid conversations about…this.’

‘But…but what is this? I’m…I’m not dying? Really?’

‘No. Might seem like it, might feel like it sometimes too. From what I gather, anyway. I wouldn’t know. Like I said, it only happens to girls.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you’re a girl.’

‘But why?’

‘Well…because girl’s give birth. And this is how.’

‘I’m gonna have a baby?’ she shrieked.

‘No! No, no that’s not what I meant. I just meant, this is your bodies way of, I dunno getting ready for that stuff. Look, if you come with me, I can help, okay? I can find you some new clothes and a place to get cleaned up and someone who can actually explain this shit to you better than me. But all you really need to know is that, for the next forty or so years, once a month, you’re gonna turn into a raging, moody, hormonal mess. And that means bleeding a bit. It sucks, but that’s just the way it is.’

‘But I’m not dying?’

‘Nope.’

‘This…is normal?’

‘Yep.’

‘Oh.’

Tim nodded. ‘Yep.’

‘This is gonna keep happening?’

‘For a few days. It’ll go away. Then in a month it’ll happen again.’

‘Oh,’ she frowned, fingers picking at the ragged blanket Tim had knocked aside. ‘That does suck.

‘You don’t even know the worst part yet,’ said Tim, a slow grin working onto his face.

‘It’s worse?’

‘Yep. It’s the end of the world. No more chocolate.’

You’re late.

Except you’re not that late so it’s okay. It’s nothing to make a fuss over because everyone is late sometimes, right?

So you put it out of your mind. You focus on other things. You don’t think about being late.

Except of course you do. You start comparing yourself to all your late friends. What did they do? How did they handle it? How late is late, anyway?

You decide you’re going to find out. On the way home, you make a pit stop for groceries and trail the Healthcare section absentmindedly.

You buy a lot of junk food.

You’re not an emotional eater. You just want a bit of comfort food—though, what kind of comfort you’re looking for you aren’t really sure. Yet.

You decide to call a friend. You figure if you tell someone, it won’t really seem like you’re late at all.

And it works!

For a little while.

Until the niggling nagging feeling creeps in.

You take the plunge. Bit the bullet. Find out.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

To think these things used to take twenty minutes!

Deep breath, and release. Phew. Okay. So you’re just late? That’s okay. You can live with just being late.

Except you can’t. Because three days later, you’re still late.

Mixed emotions niggle through you and you decide, after much deliberating (read: eating candy) to just find out again.

You’re more nervous, and you drink a lot of water. You bump into the door on way down the hall and owww, man your boobs are sore!

Another long three minutes of waiting. Waiting. Wait…hang on…is that a line?

You peer closer. Maybe? You’re not sure. You curse, and quickly you reach for your phone to find out what a sort-of line means? Are you still just late?

Recommendation? Wait.

Ugh.

Two more days and now you’re not sure you even need the test. You’re sore and tired and cranky and just about certain that you’re not late anymore.

You’re waaaay past late.

So you go back to the store to get groceries. The girl gives you a funny look as you once again wander down the healthcare aisle. You feel embarrassed, but then she offers you a smile as you pass through the check out and mentions that the chocolate bars are on special.

Get home. Skull down that glass of water and wait for it to go through you. For it to press uncomfortably against your bladder – you want to make extra sure this time.

Okay, go time. Third time’s the charm, right?

Two…no, not even two minutes.

Less than two minutes. Sure as sure there it is. One bright, unavoidably, ostentatious pink line.

Well…guess that means you’re not late anymore.

Dear Reader,

Oh my goodness. Life. Sometimes life just happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Life explodes in all its grandour and chaos and mishaps and that means that sometimes, despite best intentions, things fall by the wayside. As I’m sure you’ve no doubt noticed.

At any rate, I’m getting back into the swing of things and I wanted to thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me during this quiet writing spell. I’ve got a few ideas I’m working on and hopefully some good news to share soon. I’ve got a story in the sidelines I’m hoping to get published. A pitching opportunity and GenreCon and, of course, my manuscript being edited.

In the background, and the main reason behind my absence, I finally have a new kitchen! My loungeroom is back in place and my main bedroom is no longer overcrowded – phew! Now that I have some room to breathe at home, time to hit the pages!

So have a little more patience dear readers, and I will have some fresh new content out soon. Thank you for sticking with my journey so far.

Sincerley,

The Jade Writer Girl


July 28, 2017

Dear reader,

One hopes to never take advantage of ones friends.

Also (in case you hadn’t noticed) I’ve been feeling rather sappy lately.

Sincerely,

The Jade Writer Girl.

An Ode to BK

Sometimes I feel lost.

She wanders through my life,

and weaves a web throughout my thoughts

both real and make believe

two and yet also one.

Her laugh echoes across the plains of time

shifting in and out of reality,

transforming from something

hearty, jovial, ridiculous

to something else.

Something softer and fairy like.

Tinkling as only fiction can make you sound.

Sometimes I feel found.

In one world she is soft and clumsy

wise and yet naive

in need of protecting.

In the other she is feirce and strong and,

okay,

still a bit clumsy –

but she does the protecting.

In both she is bright and full of cheer.

She builds worlds of colour.

I build worlds with words – sometimes.

Sometimes I feel lucky.

I build her into another world.

Taking the known and bringing it forth

from memories

and laughter

to land amongst the characters on my page.

She builds me in the other.

Taking the doubts and the fear and lighting them on fire.

Taking a breathless girl – who is

moody

eccentric

frustrating and stubborn

igniting smiles of exasperation and eye rolls

and giving me,

with all my faults,

a shoulder to lean on.

Understanding the dizzying whirl a creative mind can

sometimes

spiral into.

The unreal,

the make believe her,

is delight and fun and a little bit mystic.

The real is so much more.

A scolding voice.

A teasing tone.

A boundless energy.

A rugged up night of Disney and sugar.

An eternal hug of belief.

A friend.

Who never cared that I stole her name,

and made her into make believe.

And really,

who wouldn’t want to fill the world with more BK?

1047-250

Dear Reader,

Sometimes you think you’re done with a story, but it’s not quite done with you. That’s what happened here. The story of the crossroads is still lurking about the corners of my mind so keep an eye out, and I hope you enjoy this next instalment.

Sincerely,

The Jade Writer Girl.

Everything

The first girl he had ever kissed had been two years older than him. He was nine and a half and small for his age, but that hadn’t stopped him from grasping her shoulders, reaching up on his tip toes, and planting a big, clumsy kiss straight on her lips.

They were full lips. Big and quick to smile. But that hadn’t been why he kissed them. In truth, he hadn’t even really liked the girl they belonged to. She had shrieked at him so fiercely he hadn’t ever dared kiss her again.

Yet, she had been his first. Not because he liked her, not even because he’d really wanted to, but because a demon had once told him to try.

Ten years. Ten years before that very same demon would come to claim his soul with a kiss of her own. She had told him to practice. To ‘try it before you’re too grown up.’ It was a warning. He wasn’t going to grow up. He would never reach adulthood. He knew that. Had accepted it, even.

So, he took her advice. He tried. He practiced. He became renowned for it. The little boy who kissed girls. Just once. Once per girl. That was enough. He found that every kiss was unique. Some felt nice. Some felt sloppy. Some just plain awkward. Most were just okay.

As he grew so did his experience. He gave kisses freely and more often yet he found that the results rarely varied. They were okay. Not bad. Not great. Just okay.

The older he got, however, the closer he came to the end of those ten short years, the more he wondered what it would be like to kiss her.

Her lips which had been a soft pink, quirking up in a curious smile as she stared at him out of impossibly red eyes. Eyes that had bored through him, seen right to his very soul.

When he wasn’t thinking about kissing, he was thinking about her.

He knew he shouldn’t have. Knew that wasting his precious, limited time was ungrateful—stupid, even. There were others who would have given anything just to have the time he’d had. Others who would have given their souls—like he had.

A soul for a kiss.

Well, in truth it was more than a kiss, but the reason behind their deal no longer mattered.

He tried to focus on other things. His grades bounced around between poor and top of the class depending on his interests. He studied animals, built science projects, kissed girls—he’d even kissed a boy. Twice. Once just to see (don’t knock it til you try it was the saying, after all), then once more just to be sure.

It wasn’t for him.

He wondered if she ever thought of him?

He certainly thought of her. Of those red eyes that followed his dreams. The girl who was a demon, with hair that glowed like fire in the morning sun. She stood waiting for him when his eyes closed, standing barefoot in the dirt of the crossroad with the spring fields glowing golden behind her.

He counted the days until he would see her again. Until she would come to claim his soul with a kiss. A kiss that he hoped wouldn’t be clumsy.

He found that clumsy kisses weren’t so much because one had never kissed before, but more because of a lack of compatibility. Sometimes there was just no way for two people to mesh. That was okay. For every person that didn’t mesh, there was one that would.

He wondered, for ten years, if he would mesh with her? Until one day the ten years was up and she stood in the doorway of his room.

‘You’re here,’ he said. ‘Hello Morgana.’

‘Hello Morgan.’

Her voice was both soft and smooth, yet with a faint husky undertone. As if she didn’t speak often. As if she’d waited these ten years to speak only to him.

She closed the distance between them, her presence engulfing him, making his breathing quicken and his pulse race. She stared at him, red into green, and then, before he had a chance to brace himself, pressed those pale pink lips against his.

It wasn’t what he had expected. It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t clumsy. It wasn’t even okay.

This kiss…this kiss was fire. It was heat. It was light. It was everything.

Her lips were dry and surprisingly cracked, chaffing against his with a fierceness that was at once rough and gentle. She was a contradiction. Her hair of fire, her eyes of blood, her hounds of hell—her touch, so soft and gentle.

She pulled back the faintest bit, so that their lips just barely touched. He opened his eyes, staring at her in wide wonder.

A kiss to end all kisses. A kiss to end his life.

Without a thought he pressed back to her, closing his eyes even as he felt the beginning of something wrong pulling at the core of him. His soul. Crying out a warning. A warning he ignored. He knew the price he had to pay for dealing with a demon. He knew there was no fighting it. No taking it back.

So instead he succumbed. Gave in. Relinquished control.

Instead he focused on this last kiss. So much better than his first.

His kiss with a demon.

No…his kiss with a demon…who was once a girl. A girl like him. Full of curiosity and wonder. Full of fire. Full of light.

In this last kiss, he saw her for what she really was. Beneath the darkness. Beneath the demon. She was a girl.

A girl that was, for this one moment, his.

Dear Reader,

A brief note before you read on:

The Price is an old short story I wrote for an assignment during university. I based it off the Faustian Bargain (which we had studied earlier in the year) and my teacher loved it. As I didn’t often delve into short stories back then, I was immensely proud of it; and still am. So much so that I honestly don’t believe any of the short stories I’ve written this year have matched it in worth.

Recently, however, the story has been on my mind – the characters floating about in the aether of my thoughts – and I realised that this story wasn’t finished with me yet. So, I sat down, and I wrote more.

Before I share that second part of this story, I thought I’d do some touch up’s and repost The Price here to share with you all.

I hope it gives you as much enjoyment reading it, as it has me.

Sincerely,

The Jade Writer Girl.

The Price

The morning was dusky. The faint smell of freshly turned earth wafted in wisps on the morning mist. All was quiet. The sounds of morning muffled by the silence of the rising sun.

She appeared, as to be expected, at a crossroads. The roads were rough dirt, disappearing into the distance in all four directions. The ground was undisturbed except at the very centre of the intersection, where a small mound indicated a disturbance in the soil. Someone had been digging.

The boy completed the picture. He stood on the other side of the mound, feet bare and toes curling in the dirt as he stared at her. His grass coloured eyes shone, but burning deeper within their depths was a faint glow. A glow that only those with the power to see souls could perceive.

A power she possessed.

It was all the same. Except it was also different.

She took a moment to glance around. The fresh morning light—the glow of the sun peaking over the horizon—was foreign to her. It had been so long since she had witnessed a sunrise. Hers was the time of darkness and starless nights.

These morning hours, the soft spray of sunlight alighting on the morning dew, were the hours of angels. Just breathing sent short bursts of numbness through her, reminding her that she was a creature not meant for daylight hours.

She returned her attention to the boy.

He wilted away from her, chestnut hair falling around his face, green eyes wide and almost startled. Too innocent, yet far too knowing to have summoned her.

‘You’re eyes are red,’ he said, whispered, breathed.

His gaze was transfixed on her face. They stood for a moment. The human and the demon; each waiting for the other. Each curious. Each, just a little bit afraid.

She blinked and he shook himself, as if she had been holding him in place—though she knew she had yet to possess that power.

‘That means you’re her, ain’t you?’ he asked.

‘Yes.’

He shifted his weight, dropping his gaze back down to the ground, at the mound in the middle of the road. The one he had buried a part of himself in—likely a lock of hair or some precious keepsake.

When he looked up at her again, his eyes were a darker shade of green. Mosslike, yet still shining with the brightness of an innocent.

She suppressed a shiver. She had never dealt with a child before. Even teenagers were touched by the violence of the world. Tainted.

This one, however, was not. He was pure. It shone from him. From his eyes and his hair and his very pores. It sent a crawling feeling along her spine and the question of how he had come to summon her emblazoned on her mind.

She took another look around the crossroads, searching for another source of the summoning, searching for some other party, some protector or controller of this boy.

There was no one. Only the child, pure and innocent and still staring at her. It sent another chill through her.

She folded her arms and said, ‘What can I do for you?’

He swallowed and gave a little cough, as if clearing his throat, ‘Can you fix people?’

‘Fix people?’

He nodded. ‘My sister, she’s… she’s sick. Can you fix her?’ His eyes were hopeful, bright, and he added in a rush, ‘I can pay!’

‘Really?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow.

He nodded again, ‘Yes. You need a kiss, right? I can do that.’

She couldn’t help the smirk that twitched at the corners of her mouth.

‘Something like that,’ she said.

He hesitated, regaining that wide eyed expression that was like nails on a chalkboard to her soul. She flexed her fingers, attempting to rid them of the numbness that was beginning to seep into their tips.

‘It’s not a kiss?’ he asked, worry pitching his voice higher. ‘She said all I hadta give you was a kiss. I don’t got nothing else.’

Uncrossing her arms, she crouched down in front of him, eyebrows drawn. Here was her answer.

‘She?’

‘My sister,’ he explained, feet kicking at the soft dirt at his feet, eyes cast away from her face at her sudden nearness, ‘she’s sick. She said you can help her get better and all I gotta do is give you a kiss.’

She rested her elbows on her knees, feet sinking into the dirt. ‘She sent you?’

The boy nodded, eyes flicking up to hers and away again.

‘She told you how to find me?’

He nodded again.

She stood up, ‘What’s your name, kid?’

‘Morgan,’ he said, ‘What’s your name?’

She hesitated, her voice catching in her throat. ‘Didn’t your sister tell you?’ she asked.

He shook his head emphatically. ‘She just said I’d know you ‘cause of your red eyes,’ he paused and tilted his head to the side.

She hesitated before answering with a wry smile, ‘My name is Morgana.’

He blinked. ‘That’s like my name!’ he said, voice hitching high.

‘You don’t say?’

At her tone, he paused to look at her, leaning a little closer than she would have liked. She shifted backwards, having trouble focusing on his eyes and the consequent shine of his soul.

She stood up and took another look around. With a little more focus than she had used before, she looked around again, searching for the path the boy had come from. To the west she saw a flicker of blue, the dim light of an adult soul. She had not seen it in the glow of innocence that shone from the boy, but now it was obvious to her. The sickly outline of the blue soul, the flickering darkness of whatever illness was slowly consuming it.

Yes, that soul was one that would have no qualms coming out to the crossroads to bargain for life.

Morgana frowned at the house in the distance. ‘How old are you?’

‘I’m nine,’ said Morgan. ‘How old are you?’

She glanced at him, smirking again. ‘I’m very old.’

The boy tilted his head to the side, frowning as he looked her over. ‘You don’t look very old.’

She laughed and turned to him fully. She tried to spot some sort of darkness in the shine. Some sign that he was already tainted. He stared back at her, swaying slightly, hands moving unconsciously with the motion of the wind.

Morgana took a deep breath in. It had been so long since she had even seen a child so pure as this boy. This child with her namesake.

He would make a great addition to the King’s ranks. The brightest souls often turned the darkest, and she would be greatly rewarded for stealing such a prize from above. Yet the thought of carrying him…

She sighed. ‘I can fix your sister,’ she said.

His face turned brilliant and the shine from him brightened so much that she had to look away, ‘Really?’ he asked.

‘Quite easily.’

‘Like magic?’

The question gave her pause. Her past reared it’s distorted face in her mind, reminding her of all the reasons she stood there before the boy, rather than in another place. A place where the presence of a soul like his would not burn her.

Morgana tilted her head. ‘In another life, perhaps,’ she said softly. ‘What I do is more of an exchange.’

‘Exchange?’

‘I can grant you this… wish—,’ she said.

‘Like a genie!’ he exclaimed, interrupting her.

She raised her eyebrows, ‘Something like that,’ she said again, ‘But my wishes aren’t free.’

Morgan flushed and looked at the ground again, ‘Oh, the kiss?’

‘No,’ she said, ‘The kiss is how I give you the wish.’

The boy frowned, ‘So… how do I pay you?’

She crouched down in front of him again. ‘You give me your soul.’

He froze, eyes wide, sunlight gleaming off his hair and silence filling the fields around them. It was still, quiet, all animals having hidden from her presence, from her darkness.

The boy stood in that silence, caught in it, as her words slowly registered with him.

‘My-My soul?’

The brightness of him, and her closeness to it, made it hard for her to focus on him. His purity was raw and bold. Dangerous to her own darkness. Her hands tingled from it, alternating between numbness and a slow, creeping burn. It was her punishment, for daring to be so close to a creature such as Morgan.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘If you accept my deal, then your sister will be healed and you will have just ten years of life. And then I get your soul.’

His breath hitched. He swayed closer to her, and though his light itched through her, she stayed where she was.

‘T-Ten years?’ he said, eyes large and breath short.

Morgana nodded. It was the set price she gave all her customers. Non-negotiable.

He was silent. His feet shifted in the dirt. His hands clenched at the hem of his shirt. His head tilted, eyes drifting back the way he had come, back toward the house in the distance, and the soul that lived within it.

‘But you’ll fix her?’

‘Yes.’

‘Will…will I die? Without it?’

‘Yes.’

‘Will it hurt?’ His voice cracked on the last word, hitching in that way that precluded tears.

Morgana whispered, ‘Yes.’

He swallowed again. Hard. His gaze became unfocused as he turned back to her. Green bore into red. The child and the demon.

‘Ten years,’ he whispered. ‘I’ll be…’

She filled in the end of his sentence, ‘Nineteen.’

He looked up her, eyes glistening, and in that moment, she caught a greater glimpse of him.

His sister had known more than she had told him when she sent him on this errand. She had known the cost, and had not told him—had in fact, lied to him. He knew that now.

And yet…and yet she was all he had in the world. No parents or other living relatives to rely on. No one else to protect him.

Morgana saw this, saw it in the stark white of his soul. It scoured her, burned into her mind, and she knew his choice.

‘Okay,’ he whispered.

She didn’t ask if he was sure, didn’t check that he understood what he was asking for, what it would cost him. Nor did Morgana tell him what future awaited his sister’s soul for sending him to make her deal.

‘Have you ever been kissed before, Morgan?’

He scrunched his nose. ‘No,’ he said, ‘That’s gross stuff grown ups do.’

She laughed.

‘You might want to try it before you’re too grown up, or you won’t get a chance,’ she answered.

He frowned at her, but she ignored it, leaning forward to kiss his forehead.

The contact stung and she pulled away quickly, glad she had not touched his lips.

He looked up at her, eyes once again wide, impossibly so. She was so close she could see the flecks of yellow and lighter green in his eyes.

‘Did it hurt?’ he whispered, his breath ghosting over her face.

Morgana swallowed, ‘Ten years,’ she said. ‘Ten years and I’ll be back.’

He nodded but before she could even register the movement she was gone, leaving the boy standing alone at the crossroads while her own soul burned.

#

She was back for him, ten years to the day; despite the scars his touch had left on her own shackled soul. They still burned, from time to time, and though her King had rewarded her greatly, even offered her a higher position among his ranks, she did not feel the usual thrill upon collecting a soul.

He was waiting for her when she arrived.

Her hounds strained at her heals as she walked, salivating and snarling at each other, confused as to why they were being held back and taking it out on each other. She flashed them a look and they quelled.

As she entered the room the boy looked up at her. Though he was no longer a boy.

His eyes alighted on her, still so bright, and she felt that shiver from so long ago creep back through her. Back through the tips of her fingers and her lips, where she sometimes still felt the burn of his soul. It had left stains on her. Pure stains that streaked through the darkness.

‘You’re here,’ he said.

His voice was soft and calm. As before it was all the same. Except, as before, it was also different. He was not like the others. He did not run or plead or beg for another deal, for another ten years, another five, another one. Just one.

Instead he sat and greeted her.

‘Hello Morgana.’

She stilled her hounds with a wave and said, ‘Hello Morgan.’

He smiled at her and stood from the bed where he had been sitting cross-legged.

‘How is your sister?’ she asked, having not seen any sign of the soul she had healed.

He smiled, ‘She’s well,’ he said, ‘No more cancer, thanks to you. I said goodbye to her this morning.’

Her eyebrows shot up, ‘Goodbye?’

Morgan nodded, ‘Of course. I had to explain what was going to happen to me,’ he said. ‘But she already knew.’

It did not appear to bother him, his sister’s abuse of his soul, and she once again wondered if he truly comprehended the deal he had made.

‘You know, you never explained how it works,’ he said, ‘How you could just… take the cancer away. I’ve always wondered.’

She raised an eyebrow and smirked, ‘Like magic.’

He grinned at her, not the grin of those Morgana typically conversed with, but the good natured grin of a delighted child.

‘Perhaps you’ll find out,’ she added.

The reminder of his imminent death did little to diminish his smile and he leaned back against the bed frame to say, ‘Well. Let’s get this done then.’

He looked toward her hounds expectantly, and she knew that he had done his homework, that he knew how this was supposed to end. Instead, she closed the distance between them, so that she could once again see the flecks of gold in his eyes.

She kissed him.

His lips were hot against her own, searing at her own charred soul, tearing at the white streaks that already marred her.

He had taken her advice in regards to kisses.

She breathed in, sucking out his soul until the brightness left his eyes and instead filled her.

Her pain was her penance. His lack of pain, for the moment at least, her futile gift.

He was meant to suffer for his deal. That was the rule. That was what the hounds were for. It was their job. Her job. To let them rip through the physical of this world and tear into the fragile soul beneath.

This time though, this time the soul was too bright.

The price too high.

Dear Reader,

What does the story say to you when you are blind to all else but the words?

Sincerely,

The Jade Writer Girl.

_

‘Can I help you? … Hi, can I help you?’

‘Oh, uh, sorry. Um, no banana bread, er … chips! Can I have chips please?’

Sigh. ‘Kitchen closes at two.’

‘At two? Damn, that’s right. Uh, sorry, a, um, a chocolate please, that one and uh,’

Crinkle, rustle, Bleep. ‘Anything else?’

‘Uh, yeah, do you do milkshakes?’

‘… no.’

‘Oh … uh … Shit.’

‘Sorry?’

‘I said juice, I’ll have a juice please.’

‘What kind?’

‘Oh, apple please?’

‘That’s $7.90.’

‘Right, thank you. On card please.’ snick, bleep, crank! Slap.

‘Next please.’